Indians Were Poor Marksmen

Over a century before Rush Limbaugh roamed the airwaves, Rush Roberts, whose Pawnee name translates to Fancy Eagle, roamed the Great Plains. While researching the life of Henry Roberts, left end on the great Carlisle Indian School football team of 1911, for my upcoming book, Oklahoma’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals, I came across the fact that Henry’s father was a quite colorful character.

In 1876, at age 16 or 17, Rush was recruited as a scout for the U. S. Cavalry, becoming the youngest man to fight under Gen. Crook in this campaign. It is documented that he participated in the November 25, 1876 Dull Knife-Mackenzie Fight (aka Battle of Bates Creek) as a member of the Pawnee Battalion. The Pawnees were credited for fighting with exceptional capability against one of their ancient enemies. He was awarded his father’s name, Fancy Eagle, for his bravery in battle. Almost a decade after the war ended, he enrolled as a student at Hampton Institute in Virginia. He stayed there for two years and later sent two of his children, one of whom was Henry Roberts. Rush eventually became a chief of the Skidi Pawnees and lived to an old age. His exploits ares mentioned in We Remember: the history of the U. S. Cavalry from 1776 to the present by Edward L. Daily.

In an interview about the plains wars, Rush stated that, in general, Indians weren’t good marksmen with rifles. The problem was that they didn’t understand how to use the rear sight and wind gauge to hit their targets at long distances. However, they were excellent at shooting from horseback, particularly at short range. Rush explained, “The group formations of the army made a bigger target, but army marksmanship was better and steadier.”

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24 Responses to “Indians Were Poor Marksmen”

  1. Audrey Alexander Dumas Says:

    Rush Roberts is my great-great-great-grandfather. His granddaughter, my own great-grandmother, is the oldest living pawnee. My great-uncle Vandervert Roberts, is the heriditary cheif of the pawnee and the second oldest pawnee. I am very proud of my family and am pleased to find that he is quoted in history.

    • tombenjey Says:

      Thank you for commenting. Only yesterday, I read in a Carlisle Indian School newspaper that he was visiting the school. I think the article was titled, “Lone Chief.” Rush Roberts is also mentioned in the chapter on Rush Roberts in “Oklahoma’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals.”

  2. Tanya Beardsley Speagle Says:

    Rush Roberts was my great, great grandfather. Henry Roberts was my grandmothers father. I am always looking for information on my ancesters. I found this article very interesting, thank you. I also find it exciting that Rush and Henry are quoted in history. I am a proud Pawnee!

  3. Frances Kotal Says:

    I came across your blog while assisting my daughter in Pawnee Indian research. Fancy Eagle/Rush Roberts was my great-grandfather. My grandfather was Rush Roberts, Jr. and my grandmother was Gertrude Mathews Roberts. I am 1/2 Pawnee Indian and while raised in Fort Worth, Texas, I am now living in Chicago. Rush Jr. passed away in 1975, and Gertrude died in 1993. Both are buried in Pawnee, OK next my mother, Richenda Roberts Blassingame, who died in 1980.

    • tombenjey Says:

      Thank you for writing, Frances. I only became aware of Rush Roberts when researching the life of his son, Henry Roberts for “Oklahoma’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals” and don’t really know much about him. From what I do know, he was quite a colorful guy. If I understand correctly, Henry Roberts and Rush Roberts Jr., your grandfather, were brothers. Was your mother related to the famous football player, Tek or Tex Mathews? The little information I have about him is sketchy at best.

  4. Jack R. Templeton Says:

    My uncle, Christopher Kenny Templeton, married Rush’s oldest daughter Nellie in 1904. I’ve been trying to collect all of Rush’s descendnts in an family tree. Would love to hear from the above commenters – or other descendants-any stories they’ve heard about Rush. While googling Henry I found a 4th grade paper he wrote that claims Rush was an adopted Pawnee, son of white immigrants massacred by the Sioux. A picture of Rush, c 1922, with 7 other surviving Pawnee Scouts shows Rush with caucasion features with 7 others who appear native american. Wonder if any of Henry’s descendants heard that story

  5. Frances Kotal Says:

    As I understand, Henry was Rush’s eldest son and my grandfather, Rush Jr. was the youngest. Rush Sr. died in 1959, the year before I was born. Ahpit (Grandfather Rush) passed away in 1975 when I was 15. He was very close with his elder sisters, Lena Roberts Tafoya and Vivian Roberts Archambault, who remained in Pawnee and died a year after Rush Jr.

    As for Rush Sr. being of Caucasian parentage, I have never heard such, He certainly had all the features of an American Indian in the photographs I have seen. Rush Jr. and Vivian were certainly of Pawnee descent, and there was no question as their physical features were distinctly Pawnee. My grandmother Gertrude, Rush Jr.’s second wife, was also full Pawnee. They made their home in Fort Worth, Texas where Rush Jr. worked at General Dynamics and Gertrude was a nurse. They had a very traditional Pawnee family ethic; 2 of their children were adopted by family members who could not have children of their own..such is the Pawnee way. Rush Jr.’s daughter with his first wife Sally produced Wynema. Nema was adopted by Vivian and her husband, Walter Archambault after Sally’s death. Rush Jr. and Gertrude’s union produced Kenneth, Norma Helen, Richenda Irene, Alexandra Kay, and Dorothy Frances. Norma and Dorothy are still living in the Fort Worth area. My mother, Richenda, died in 1980 in Fort Worth. Kay was adopted as a young girl by Harold and Emma CurleyChief of Anadarko, OK. Kay was killed in a car accident in 1972.

    Richenda was the only daughter to marry and have children of her own. I, Frances Elizabeth, am the eldest, born in 1960. My brother Robert Walter was born in 1963 and my sister Deborah Alice in 1964. Robert and Deborah reside in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. I moved to Chicago in 2000. My brother, sister and I are 1/2 Pawnee Indian. Our father was Caucasian.

    I hope this information helps in some way. I wish I had listened more intently when my grandparents were alive. It never occurred to me then that I would one day be considered an ‘elder’.

  6. Jack R. Templeton Says:

    I hope my attached photo of the 8 Pawnee scouts come thru O.K. If it doesn’t google . the 2nd page has a google book reference “Some Things Are Not Forgotten: A Pawnee Family Remembers” by Martha Royce Blaine. Rush is 3rd from the left in the standing row.

  7. tombenjey Says:


    I don’t think WordPress supports pictures being placed in comments. Could you attach them to an email and send it to



  8. Maria Medina Says:

    Rush Roberts is my great-great-great grandfather. His granddaughter, my great grandma Florence Roberts Alexander just celebrated her 98th birthday and lives with my family and I. I’ve always been interested in my family’s history and I’m glad I found these pages. Especially all the comments from relatives I didn’t even know I had!

    • tombenjey Says:

      One of the greatest rewards I get doing this work is helping family members learn of each other.

      • Frank Roberts Says:

        Rush Roberts was my great great grandfather.Vandervoort James (VJ) Roberts was my father who passed away at age 74. He had been married to Inez Pahdocony who was Comanche. I live in Albuquerque and have lost touch with my Aunt Florence Roberts Alexander and I am hoping that Maria Medina and or Florence will get in touch with me .
        This is a wonderful site and I am pleased to have it.

      • tombenjey Says:

        Thank you for your kind words, Frank. Perhaps some of your relatives will see your comment and get in touch with you. It has happened before.

  9. Norma H. Roberts Says:

    NOWAH****That;s the Pawnee hello or greeting. I am a grand-daughter of Rush Roberts, Sr.daughter of Rush, Jr. It was nice to read the various comments.
    I’m sure you are aware of all fhe accolades bestowed on my Grandfather. HE EARNED THEM ALL. As I am reaching ‘” old age ” ( I’ll be 74 Sept.2011 )I have often thought if Grandfather had not survived the Sioux Battle in Massacre Canyon we( meaning the Roberts family ) would not be here. Uhpit ( Pawnee ) was an orphan, his parents were killed in that Canyon and Uhpit managed to escape by grabbing the mane of a horse running,by him. He made his body straight along the side of that horse. My father, Rush, jr. loved to have Uhpit tell about the old days & his youth. We would go visit Uhpit almost every week; whenever we walked into the house Uhpit would be singing Pawnee songs. My father acquired that love for singing Pawnee songs. My father’s daily
    ” ritual ” of that was when he woke up every morning, he would go outside, face towards the East and sing. Wish I had recorded him singing, he had a great voice; now I can only think about what he had done. He was gone much too soon : he died at the age of 68. He truly loved his brothers, sisters and would try to visit them.

    Frankie, I hope your relatives contact you.

    We seem to have scattered all over. Uhpit would always say; get a good education and I believe we’ve done that, My cousins are the TEMPLETONS living near Pawhuska, Tulsa and the eastern towns, I had been in touch with them for a long time and in the course of moving I have mis-placed their addresses.; would love to see / visit them. I should be so lucky and have them contact me. They aren’t my only cousins, I have a LOT more.
    So you can understand why I am so fortunate for my loving UHPIT.

  10. Jack R. Templeton Says:

    Here’s a couple of addresses/phone numbers of Aunt Nells grandchildren:
    C. Kenny Templeton III June Lee Templeton
    Rte 2, Box 395B 4342 Taos Road
    Cleveland, OK 74020 Dallas, TX 75209
    (918) 358-2186 (214) 350-2276
    I’m sure Kenny can put you in touch with other Templeton cousins

  11. Jeri Says:

    Does anyone know how Vandervert Roberts got his name? I ask because I am descended from Vanderverts who lived in the OK Territories and am wondering if there was any inter-marriage between your ancestors and the Vanderverts. I descend through Okla Homa Vandervert and Oklahoma Vandervert.

  12. carlin vandervert Says:

    hello iam carlin vandervert, my grand father was okla h vandervert born in ok territores. I am from his son also name okla homa vandervert and his wife anna vandervert in kansas. I would also appricate any information you could shed on this .Thany you.

    • tombenjey Says:

      Thank you for writing, Carlin. I don’t really know anything about the Vanderverts but at least one other person has commented who might be of help.

      Good luck in finding out more about your ancestors.


  13. Monte Yellow Bird Sr. Says:

    Frank Roberts, Gee’d, VJ Robert was my teacher when I attended IAIA in Santa Fe NM. My Name is Monte O Yellow Bird Sr. and I am Arikara/Hidasta from North Dakota. Your father influenced my life and was a good friend and teacher to me. he used to speak Pawnee to me and we had many good visits in class. He used to call me nephew and ask me to sit in front so we could listen to a Old Hank Willams record and study….would love to pay my respects and visit his resting place. my email address is:

  14. cur dialogues Says:

    Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the images on this blog
    loading? I’m trying to find out if its a problem on my end or if it’s
    the blog. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  15. Richard H Roberts Says:

    Hello , I realize I’m a little late to this party , but my is Richard H Roberts . My grandfather is James chakah Roberts sr . His father was george roberts jr . I have a piece of property on pawnee lake near the skeedee river . I don’t know how far that dates back .

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